Protecting Kentucky’s Pollinators
by Ray Bowman
(A version if this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, July 6 issue)
Mention the term pollinator and most people’s thoughts go to honey bees. Interestingly, the honey bee as we think of it today is not even native to the Americas.
According to Wikipedia (and who doesn’t believe Wikipedia?) honey bees appear to have their center of origin in South and Southeast Asia. They may have bummed a ride with the early colonists around 1622, when they arrived by way of Europe. The Native Americans dubbed it “the white man’s fly.”
But as ubiquitous as the honey bees now are, Kentucky’s state apiarist Tammy Horn says the Commonwealth hosts plenty of other (mostly) native pollinators.
“Pollinators is a very broad umbrella, that includes bats, hummingbirds, and butterflies – especially Monarch butterflies,” Horn observed. She noted that the Monarchs are a matter of concern, as are the honey bees, due to much-publicized fluctuations in their populations.
All this underscored the importance of Kentucky Pollinator Week, which coincided with National Pollinator Week, June 19-25.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture hosted state beekeepers, garden clubs and other pollinator friends at an event held in a green space adjacent to the Department offices, where various hives and pollinator attractive plants were on display. Ag chief of staff Keith Rogers read a proclamation from Governor Matt Bevin and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles emphasized the need for continued public education about the importance of agriculture and the impact of pollinators on that industry.
“We’ve got to do a better job of telling people the basics because when we have a sophisticated issue such a Colony Collapse Syndrome or other issues affecting the bee community, you’ve got to have a basic level of understanding before there can be intelligent discussion,” Quarles noted.
Also at the event, Commissioner Quarles was presented with the Kentucky Pollinator Protection Plan, which Horn points to as a four-part set of guidelines to address some of the challenges being faced by Kentucky’s pollinator population.
“We’re defining best management practices, we’re increasing pollinator habitat, and we’re increasing education,” Horn explained. “Our last goal has been to create an electronic communication tool so that if something is being sprayed that requires communication with KDA, the sprayer can log on-line and text beekeepers and other managers of sensitive land areas.”
Horn says the final communication component is not active yet, but the project has been approved and is forthcoming.
The pollinator protection plan is on the Department of Agriculture’s web site at http://www.kyagr.com/statevet/documents/OSV_Bee_KY-Pollinator-Pro-Plan.pdf and Horn says parts of it are currently being implemented.
Kentucky Farm Bureau, along with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and several other stakeholders have been involved in creating the state’s Pollinator Protection Plan.